By Etienne Mainimo
Patients and victims of the ongoing conflict in Anglophone regions are helpless as Doctors Without Borders, an International Humanitarian Medical Non-Governmental Organization, NGO says they are leaving the crisis hit Northwest Region of Cameroon.
According to the NGO’s operations coordinator of Central Africa, Emmanuel Lampaert, they cannot longer stay any longer in a region where they are not allowed to provide health care to the people.
“We cannot stay any longer in a region where we are not allowed to provide care to people here. Unfortunately, we cannot keep our staff on standby any longer, so we have no choice but to withdraw our teams.
However, we will keep a small liaison office in Bamenda, the regional capital to continue our dialogue with the authorities,” Emmanuel Lampaert said.
Going by Doctors Without Borders, they are withdrawing their team following government suspension of their activities from the region after a series of allegations accusing them of supporting local armed groups.
Despite categorically rejecting of the accusations and following countless months of exchanges, Cameroonian authorities refused to grant the NGO the opportunity to resume its medical activities.
“This suspension significantly reduces access to medical services in an area where communities are badly affected by armed violence. We hope that the provision of medical humanitarian assistance to everyone, without distinction, will still be possible. The people are paying a very heavy price for this situation. If the authorities decide to lift our suspension, we will resume our medical activities as soon as possible,” Lampaert further said.
To him, “It is essential that other organizations step in to provide additional support to the Ministry of Health to ensure the provision of care for vulnerable people. This must be done with absolute respect for health facilities, staff and patients.”
Before suspending their activities on December 8, 2020, Doctors Without Borders was accuse by government for supporting local armed groups.
Responding, the NGO in a statement said, they categorically reject the allegations of having provided support for separatist fighters in the North-West.
They affirmed that, “We have never facilitated the transport of arms, ammunition or armed combatants, and have never provided logistical or financial support to any of the parties to the ongoing crisis. In Cameroon as everywhere else in the world, we operate in the strictest respect of our charter, which requires us to act in a framework of total independence, neutrality and impartiality and to apply a policy of zero tolerance for the presence of weapons in the structures and vehicles we support and maintain.”
Having reiterated our call, as expressed in our in a press release of June22, that the suspension of activities be lifted in the North-West in view of its impact on local communities, government didn’t react.
Since 2018, Doctors Without Borders have provided free emergency medical care and ambulance services in the North-West region. The NGO has been one of the few international NGOs that is offering free medical care to communities in the North-West region, and managed the only 24/7 free ambulance service in the area.
Each year, tens of thousands of patients benefited from its support in a region where access to care has been significantly reduced by armed violence.
For four years, the crisis has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left many healthcare facilities dysfunctional. Many people are struggling to access the remaining open healthcare facilities due to financial, security and geographic constraints.
In 2020, until the suspension of its operations, the teams in the North-West region treated 180 survivors of sexual violence, provided 1,725 mental health consultations, performed 3,272 surgeries, and transported 4,407 patients by ambulance, more than 1,000 of whom were women about to give birth.